3 reasons why people buy packaged foods and ways to drop the habit.

Processed foods have developed a bad reputation in the health community over time, and rightfully so. Fortunately, the Internet and social media have increased general knowledge of unhealthy habits, but people still remain in the dark. If you are unfamiliar with the subject, the gist is that many packaged foods (e.g. crackers, cereals, frozen meals, pasta kits, etc.) are unhealthy. They contain harmful ingredients like preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. We will discuss the ill-effects of certain ingredients in a later article. For now, we will focus on addressing common reasons why people buy packaged foods and proposed solutions. 

Convenience

Processed foods can reduce the time and effort required to prepare or cook, which is an understandable draw. Understand that not all packaged foods are unhealthy. You just have to read the ingredients. For instance, we sometimes buy organic GimMe seaweed snacks at Costco. The ingredients are harmless: seaweed, olive oil, and sea salt. So, it’s certainly possible to get healthy packaged foods. Again, just read the labels and know what you are consuming. Otherwise, plenty of snacks are healthy with minimal effort. For instance, fruits can require as little effort as peeling or washing. Yogurt and cheese also require minimal effort.

As for meals, yes, they do take more effort, but you can keep the work minimal. For instance, eggs cook up very quickly. Slow cooker or pressure cooker meals are also pretty effortless. If you’re into protein shakes or smoothies, then they can make a great breakfast or lunch alternative. If you’re really committed to your health, however, I would say to take the time on a weekend or weeknight where you have a couple of hours to spare and cook in bulk. That way, you can have leftovers for the week that don’t require any time aside from reheating. (See our earlier article about ways to circumvent your aversion to cooking.) Most people don’t think they have the time, but actually do. It’s just a matter of motivating yourself to set aside the time to cook.

Cost

Although packaged foods may seem cheap, such as a $1.00 frozen meal or $3.00 meal kit, price often reflects the quality of ingredients. It’s unlikely to find organic or GMO-free ingredients with those cheap prices, or the servings are probably so small that you would spend less overall cooking the items yourself and dividing up the larger quantity. It’s often a lot cheaper to buy quality ingredients and to cook a larger meal versus buying single meals from a store or restaurant. Plus, you have to figure the potential future healthcare costs you’ll incur by continuing to eat unhealthy. In the end, investing in your health and longevity is worthwhile. Besides, if you really develop a love for cooking and refining your skills, you may even be like Josh, who thinks his culinary creations are superior to many restaurants’.

Taste

Food manufacturers craft their products to appeal to consumer taste buds, often meaning using addictive, unhealthy ingredients like the combination of fats and sugars. As discussed in a prior article, you can become addicted to all those unhealthy additives and ingredients. If you wean yourself from eating them, then you won’t crave them as much. Or if you really feel like those products taste superior, then try to match them at home. As mentioned above, Josh has studied cooking techniques to the point where he enjoys his creations more than others’ on average. But most importantly, if you eat better, you will start to enjoy and seek out healthier ingredients more. You will no longer crave your former packaged products on a regular basis.

Summary

I understand the above suggestions may still require effort, but all changes require some effort by definition. Once changes become routine, however, the perceived effort will lessen. Plus, your improved mood, feeling, or energy level will likely increase your motivation. Always remember the end goal: improving your health and longevity. Consuming better foods and ingredients may require more time and cost, but the tradeoff is worth it in the end.

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